CHICAGO — A tradition is returning to Pilsen on Saturday, and the event’s reach across the country is continuing to grow.
Carrera de los Muertos 5K will be run for the 16th time in the neighborhood and sold out nearly two weeks before the event that starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. It features a record 6,000 participants, and perhaps more interesting, features runners coming from 25 states to take part in the event.
Started in 2007, the 3.2 miles are part of the celebration of “Día de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” in the neighborhood.
“It’s truly a blessing. We don’t take it for granted,” said race director Carlos Jaramillo of the record turnout. “Chicago has a very rich running scene and running community. There’s so many great races out there and folks can choose from a variety of different ones and different distances as well.
“So to say that our race has the biggest field that it ever has, knowing full well that a lot of races have decreased in numbers or have remained kinda flat, it’s a blessing.”
That’s because the run started with 500 people in 2007 with Jaramillo hoping to add to Chicago’s road racing scene with the event in Pilsen. It’s grown throughout the years it’s been run, with the only breaks being a virtual 2020 race due to the pandemic and a year off in 2021.
It returned in full in 2022 and will do the same in 2023 as Pilsen continues to become a favorite stop for runners. The neighborhood is noted for having one of the most enthusiastic stretches of the Chicago Marathon between miles 19 and 20, including the aid station on 18th Street.
“It’s a sense of pride more than anything. We take a lot of pride in showcasing the flavor of the neighborhood, the history of the neighborhood, the culture of the neighborhood,” said Jaramillo. “I think folks from Pilsen come out year after year, whether it be for this event or any others.
“I think it’s a show of pride more than anything to showcase the culture. I think it’s awesome that it’s a melting pot of different cultures now but I think it’s very important that Pilsen holds onto its identity. It comes out with events such as ours.”
One thing that Jaramillo credits with the growth of the event is the ability of the 5K to embrace the traditions of the neighborhood while also adding contemporary music and art for the runners to get a better feel of the neighborhood.
“What I like to tell people is that even though ‘Carrera de los Muertos’ is certainly first and foremost the theme, it’s also a celebration of life and I would say a celebration of our community as well,” said Jaramillo.